PEDDIE, John (d.1817), African explorer. 16 letters & MSS re proposed River Niger expedition 1816

PEDDIE, John (d.1817), African explorer. 16 letters & MSS re proposed River Niger expedition 1816

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PEDDIE, John (d.1817), African explorer. A collection of 16 manuscript letters and documents concerning Major John Peddie’s proposed expedition of 1816 to chart the River Niger as follows:

1. Autograph letter in third person from John Peddie to Mr Kommer [misspelled throughout], Senegal, 27th August 1816, 1 side, 4to, inviting him to join him at an evening piano recital. On the reverse are 12 lines of notes in French in Kummer’s hand in which he makes several calculations of expected payments from the British and French authorities.

2. Letter signed from John Peddie to Mr Kommer, Senegal, 1st September 1816, 4 sides, folio, regarding the employment of his correspondent on his expedition  "In consequence of the wish you some time ago expressed, to proceed with me into the Interior of Africa I lately addressed His Excellency Colonel Schmalz  on the subject, and having received from him the most satisfactory answer, accompanied at the same time with favourable recommendations;  I have decided with the Opinion of Captain Campbell, to accept of your Services, and will attach you to the Expedition, should the terms I now offer you be accepted" followed by several pages of detailed requirements, including: "As your great Forte seems to be Natural History I will expect that during our Journey you will collect as often as you can, such specimens, as may appear to be unknown in Europe, and worthy of Notice, giving the preference to those of most utility, whether of the Vegetable or Animal Creation ........... Drawings of such as cannot be preserved, must be made, accompanied, with a detailed description .......You will be expected to keep a regular Journal which,  as well as your Drawings, Sketches, and Observations, must be considered as Public property .......... I am not aware if you are acquainted with Astronomy but as that branch is particularly under the direction of Captn. Campbell, it would only be necessary for you, to assist in taking the observations .........your rank among the Gentlemen proceeding with me, will be assigned to you;  the men will have orders to obey you .......... I will allow you a yearly salary during the time you are attached to the Expedition, but I feel unwilling to name it, as you must be the best judge how your own time and Talents ought to be rewarded". The top edge slightly grubby and frayed.

3. Autograph letter signed from John Peddie to Mr Kommer, (marked ‘Private’), Senegal, 1st September 1816, 1 side of a bifolium, 4to, with address panel on second leaf, sent as an addendum to his previous letter [item 2] “I have declined in my Public letter to you mentioning the emolument I will grant to you as Captain Campbell and myself wish particularly in the first instance to come from yourself …… rest assured I shall act as liberal to you as I can”. Top right corner damaged (not affecting text).

4. Autograph letter in third person from John Peddie to Mr Kommer, Senegal, 7th September 1816, 2 sides of a bifolium, 8vo, enclosing letters [not present] received from Colonel Schmaltz, adding that he has not had the pleasure of seeing Kummer lately and hopes it is not due to any indisposition.

5. Autograph letter signed from John Peddie to J. Kommer Esq, Senegal, 9th September 1816, 4 sides of a bifolium, 4to, acknowledging his letter of the 7th stating his terms  "I beg to say that they appear to me so very extravagant that I can not possibly agree to them – when I assure you it is my opinion that the first Professor of Natural History in England would not have made such demands you will not I trust conceive I decline your Services from any other reason, than being unable to comply with the terms submitted to me ..........In order that His Excellency Colonel Schmaltz may know my reasons for declining your Services, I will address him by the first opportunity and enclose him your letter ".

6. Autograph letter in third person from John Peddie to Kommer, 27th September 1816, 8vo, 1 side of a bifolium with address panel, requesting the company of Mr Kommer at dinner ‘to day’at 4 o'clock.

7. Draft/copy letter unsigned to Kummer [from internal evidence] Senegal 28th September 1816, 2 sides, folio, apologising for not replying to his letter earlier, informing him that “Doctor Hall does not receive from the British Government near the sum you demand, your good sense will tell you how impossible it is for me to agree to the terms you now submit to me ……. I shall grant to give you the same as this Gentleman receives ...”. Docketed on the reverse “Pay of Staff Surgeon. Allowance of 500 Pounds half now & half when the journey is finished”. Top edge ragged.

8. Autograph draft letter in Kummer’s hand in French, Senegal le 4 Oct 1816, with interesting detail of the scope of the collecting and recording he will be undertaking as naturalist attached to the expedition, and in the final part of the letter setting out the remuneration from Peddie of £250 upon departure from Senegal, and £250 to be forwarded to France upon news from Peddie having reached the Interior. Foot of paper ragged.

9. Letter signed from John Peddie to “Mr Kommer - Naturalist”, 3 sides of a bifolium, 4to, Senegal October 4th 1816, in a neat formal hand setting out the terms of the agreement with details of remuneration, and asking that he returns “the letter I sometime ago submitted to you, as to the nature of your appointment, and the duties required of you, in order that I may have a copy made; signed by you to forward to England …... that my Government may be acquainted wit your being attached to my Mission”.

10. Copy agreement set out in a neat formal hand [by Peddie] on 2 sides of a bifolium, Senegal 24th October 1816, with a pencil annotation “recue le 16 Nov 1816, opening “I Mr Kommer, Naturalist, proceed into the Interior of Africa, with Major Peddies Expedition, on the following terms:” following which are details of the two payments to be made to him, plus “To receive on leaving Senegal the Daily Pay of a Staff Surgeon; (Fourteen shillings and three Pence) per day, until my services are dispensed with by those in Command of the Expedition”.

11. Letter signed from John Peddie to Thomas Harrison Esq, of Treasury Chambers, London, 4to, 1 side of a bifolium, Senegal, 24th October 1816, informing Harrison that "Having found it necessary to appoint Mr. Kummer, a German Naturalist, to proceed with me into the Interior of Africa, to supply the place of Doctor Hall (who has returned to England in consequence of bad health) appointed to succeed Staff Surgeon Cowdry, I have found it necessary to Draw on the Lords Commissioners of His Majestys Treasury, for the Sum of Two Hundred and fifty Pounds Sterling, being for the amount of His Expenses and outfit;-  previous to proceeding with me into the Interior. ...........I have also entered into an agreement with Mr. Kummer which I have submitted to Earl Bathurst and in consequence I have left a Bill behind me in his favor". Small tears top right.

12. Agreement in French signed Adolphe Kummer, 4to, 1 side of a bifolium, Senegal, 16th November 1816, regarding joining the expedition being led by Major John Peddie into the Interior of Africa on terms set out in the agreement of 4th October 1816, and in accordance with arrangements made with Mr Auguste Doumerc (of the French government) on Kummer’s behalf.

13. Autograph letter signed from John Peddie to J. Kommer Esq, 4 o'clock Sunday Morning (added in pencil probably by Kummer "le16 Nov: 1816") , folio, 1 side of a bifolium with address panel, with a few ink marks and 2 seal marks, regarding urgent travel arrangements "The vessel appointed for you to proceed by sails at day light this morning – it is absolutely necessary that you proceed by her – if any of your affairs remain here unsettled  have the goodness to leave directions with me how you wish them arranged and I will do any thing for you with pleasure".

14. Autograph letter signed from John Peddie, to Mr Kommer, 17th November 1816, 8vo, 1 side of a bifolium with address panel, with 2 seal marks, in reply "I have read your note and wish arrange every thing to your satisfaction on my arrival at Goree if any thing is wanted to be done for you here I will settle it for you".

15. Manuscript treasury order signed by John Peddie to pay Adolphe Kummer or order £250, Goree 20th November 1816, on 1 side (25 x 14cm), docketed on the reverse in Kummer’s hand “Pay to Mr August Doumerc or order Adolphe Kummer”.

16. Draft letter in French, probably from Auguste Doumerc to Gotthelf Kummer (brother of Adolphe), 2 sides, 4to. Paris 1st August 1821, referring to “votre frere”, regarding the fate of individuals on the Peddie expedition insofar as matters can be ascertained. Paper water stained.


John Peddie's expedition originated in a government sponsored plan to explore and chart the River Niger and clarify the circumstances of the death of Mungo Park. It was also felt that Britain should establish interests along the African coast ahead of the French re-establishing their interests following the end of the European war. Peddie, temporarily assigned to the British Royal African Corps, arrived in Saint-Louis, Senegal, with his second in command Captain Thomas Campbell in November 1815. Peddie and Campbell began gathering intelligence in the region in order to consider their options, alongside which they recruited personnel and secured provisions. In mid 1816 Peddie decided to reach the Niger via the Rio Nunez on the Guinea coast, crossing Fuuta Jaloo and the Fula empire. Peddie reached the Rio Nunez in early December 1817 but died of fever within a month of his arrival. Campbell continued with the expedition but encountered numerous problems, and he too died of fever in June 1817.

The naturalist and explorer Adolf [Adolphe] Kummer (1786-1817) was a native of Saxony  who Peddie in the end recruited for the expedition as naturalist after an extended exchange of letters regarding his pay. The documents include (nb item 8) some interesting detail about his plans to collect and record animals, plants and minerals on the expedition. In the event, Kummer suffered the same fate as others in the expedition in being overcome by fever in 1817. Whilst on the expedition Kummer’s financial affairs were in the care of Auguste Doumerc, French Commissary General, in Paris.

Colonel Julien Schmaltz (1771-1826) who is mentioned in the letters was a French colonial administrator and governor of Senegal from 1816 to 1820. On 17 June 1816 he had departed for Saint-Louis, Senegal  (with Adolphe Kummer) on board the frigate La Méduse to take up his position as governor when it ran aground.

See Mouser, Bruce L. "Forgotten Expedition into Guinea, West Africa, 1815–17: An Editor’s Comments." History in Africa 35.1 (2008): 481-489.

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